I'm about to fit a new bridge to an archtop guitar. Dan Earlewine has a good StewMac trade secrets column on how to do it with a Stew Mac bridge fitting jig, but he uses sign painter's tape and 3M Stickit Gold paper. I'd like to find a source for small quantities of either, since I don't do that much guitar work and probably would never use whole rolls of either sandpaper grit or the tape. Does anyone know a source for small quantities? I haven't seen either the paper or the tape in the local hardware... . Otherwise, I'll use regular paper and figure out a way to hold it down.
I plan to buy a StewMac Bridge Fitting Jig and then sell it after. I've fitted a couple of bridges before "freehand" and this tool, while a little pricey, is what I think I need to do a good job. It does look like something I could make for a one-off, but finding the materials and building it up seems like more time and labor than it's worth for one job. I figure that buying and then passing on the tool is a good way to get its use for a reasonable price.
BTW, Dan E. warns about the possible damage to finish from regular masking tape and I concur: this guitar has a nitro finish and when it was shipped to me the shipper used stick-it notes to mark the approximate location of the bridge. The notes left a nice bit of crazed finish under the sticky parts.
I think that adjustable bridges are already a trade off tone wise so the difference in tape thickness from one side of the bridge to the other isn't going to make much difference but I only use one layer. I think the tops flex enough to compensate for that small a difference.
Jimmy D'Aquista didn't like the thumb wheel adjustment on archtop bridges because it kills vibration even though he understood that adjustment was just too desirable to eliminate them. Some of his experimental design guitars show bridges with tapered bases and wedges to control saddle height. I've read comments by hims that say that he found this a much better design for vibration transmission. The point is that adjustable archtop bridges already do more damage to tone production than a not quite precise foot fit will ever do.
The hardest bridge I've fit in this manner was an one piece Gibson Mandolin bridge... tall, thin and long. Almost impossible to keep flat by hand. I ended up making a block to hold the bridge against to hold it vertical.
Here are some good tapes:
3M Lacquer Masking Tape #2060: http://www.3m.com/product/information/Scotch-Lacquer-Masking-Tape.html
3M Pinstriping Tape #233+: http://3mcollision.com/products/masking/233-plus-tape
Scotch Green Hard-to-Stick (AKA as the Lacquer Masking Tape Robbie Links) is great for sticking to all kinds of odd surfaces. I used it last year on masonry when I resprayed my outdoor wrought iron fencing.
I still have a big roll of 2" wide. I may use it when I fit my bridge... .
I have been on hol's for a bit, so haven't seen a 3M Rep for a few weeks.
But I would imagine the Green Tape some folk have recommended to be a good bet.
One Company I have "an interest" in, use it for a highly complex multi - colour, wet on wet process, to temporarily mask off particular sections of a product, in areas where they don't want to build up of Paint layers, to become excessive.
Workers have to remove a section of masking material fixed in place with this tape, following one paint procedure, and directly prior to another. Everything sticks well in place using this Green Tape, but comes away very cleanly without residue, and it's a tricky operation.
They originally used a Blue Tape, but switched to the Green presumably because it's been found to be better. So without referring to the Rep, I would think it a good bet for this application, where you don't want the underlying material affected.
3M make a huge range of different Tapes in each colour range, so just check the application chart you get the right product.
OK, forget all I said about 3M Green tape. The old roll I have says nothing about lacquer. At the hardware, today, however, I looked at a new roll and the label now says that it shouldn't be used on lacquer. I suspect a new formula for the adhesive... . Sheesh... .
Also, for small quantities of stick-it tape, I picked up a package of 6" Round sand paper for a disc sander. I just cut it up to use for the bridge fitting project I'm working on. Problem solved... . There's also 4 1/2" square paper for vibrator sanders.
I just scanned over the discussion, so if someone already mentioned this, my apologies. I believe somewhere on Mr. Ford's site was a note about applying the tape, whichever it is, to your shirt first. I find an old T-shirt works best, perhaps twice or three times, so that the adhesive picks up enough stray fibers to make it adhere less, and thus minimize potential damage. I've fit bridges on archtops and stringed instruments with no damage this way. I usually use the dark blue tape, the 3-day version if I recall. Just an observation.
So, this project came out fine: new bridge fitted, problems solved. The bridge is from Cumberland Acoustics and is very nicely made of extremely high quality materials. It's also precise with extremely tight tolerances so it doesn't lean and transmits sound as well as one of these can do. I've had the same good experience with a CA bridge on my mandolin. Steve Smith of CA was also very helpful with some fitting issues, since the stock base (based on a vintage Gibson design) has quite a different curvature than my guitar. The guitar sounds better already, since the old bridge was a cheap import with low quality ebony (not very dense) and a poor design. The base had a top portion that was so thin that it flexed to conform to the top, so it probably was good at absorbing sound. The saddle was also a very sloppy fit.
To summarize some of the things I learned: 1) it's very hard to find masking tape that is compatible with nitro lacquer; 2) A good source of stick-on tape in small quantities is 6" stick on sanding discs (and they can be cut up to match the feet on two footed bridges); 3) a StewMac bridge fitting jig is really necessary to keep everything aligned. Thanks to a generous group member, I was able to borrow one which made the whole project successful. Since the top of the guitar was less than uniform, this was really necessary.
This is one of those "bargain" guitars which wasn't. Now that the bridge is done, I can make a new nut. I went to adjust a string slot that was tight and discovered that the nut is some kind of plastic... . Shoulda taken a look while the thing was apart. The frets are still marginal but it's playable for now. That's another project for another time.
Thanks to everyone for their help. I learned a whole lot from all of you, both for this project and for others.
That looks pretty good, Larry. If it plays well and sounds good it's worth it even if the dollar value isn't high. Too often "value" is confused with price.
This was an interesting read.
Here's what I use for neck set protection from sandpaper grit. No name attached, but I got it in a hardware/paint store. The glue is like on a sticky note, and only covers about a 3/4" swath along the edge. No evidence of finish damage, but I don't usually leave it on more that a day or two, and many of the guitars I work on are from the 20', give or take. Tom
A sticky note on the guitar that is the subject of this discussion is one of the issues I started with. When shipped to me, the seller marked the bridge position with sticky notes. Unfortunately, the SN's crazed the surface of the nitro lacquer everywhere they were located. fortunately, it wasn't very deep so it polished out. Maybe it's safe for a short time but I've since been very wary of any tape product, especially when it's marked as not safe for lacquer. I always check it out. Caveat emptor and all that stuff.
Some interesting info from 3M about their masking tape:
"ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape works well with most water-based paints and coatings, such as acrylic, urethane, vinyl latex and enamels. It also works well with many solvent-based coatings – alkalyds, varnishes, most enamels and some polyurethanes. In addition, ScotchBlue™ Painter’s Tape works well with plaster, glazes, textures and metallics used in faux and decorative painting.
However, be careful when working with lacquers – nitrocellulose-based lacquers react with the adhesive composition on many painter’s tapes, seemingly bonding the tape with the lacquer, making it impossible to remove. Before you start, make sure the tape you choose can be used with lacquers – higher adhesion levels such as tan masking tapes are a better choice for this particular use, because their adhesive does not react with the lacquer in this way".
My italics - sounds like a recipe for disaster!